Two-year old Tu Van was not pleased to see us and was always screaming. Interplast volunteer Dr. Bill Nolan, plastic surgeon from Bedford, New York, examines his burn contractures. The poor guy has been severely burned for most of his life. Under the care of a 9-year sibling while his parents worked in the fields, Tu Van, at four months of age, grabbed an oil lamp, spilling kerosene on himself and starting a fire, which caused severe burns on his face arm and torso.
Nhan Thi’s husband devotedly cared for her before and after her operation. He told us that 30 years ago his mother had asked him not to marry her because of her cleft. However, he did not care and loved her anyway. He continued telling us that they are very happy together and have three beautiful daughters. Everyone in the ward noticed and admired his love and devotion. What a good guy and a great love story.
Nhan Thi has lived with her cleft lip for 45 years. Unlike many with clefts, Nhan Thi has not been stigmatized by her villagers; but when she heard that Interplast would be in Cao Lanh, she decided she wanted her cleft repaired. Nhan Thi and her husband of nearly 30 years travelled for a full day by bus. In previous years, Nhan Thi had been too poor to even consider the travel, even though the surgery would be free of charge. They both are stonecutters, very difficult manual labor with very little pay, in An Giang province.
When burns are not treated properly at the time of injury, they cause burn contractures, which can make a child disabled and limited in movement. Tu Van cannot use one of his hands, cannot raise his arm and is not able to close his mouth. Interplast surgeons will release his scars tomorrow.
Surgeon Dong Thap’s Dr. Hien was the first assist or the primary surgeon; an Interplast plastic surgeon was at the table in case he was needed, but she did several cleft lips and palates. It was a great opportunity to see Interplast education and empowerment mission in action.
Nine-year-old Duc has an adorable smile. He has come to Interplast to have his eyelid repair. Duc suffers from ptosis, a disease which affects the eyelid and can lead to loss of sight. He said that it was already getting difficult to see with that eye. When asked what he liked to do, he at first said only schoolwork, only studying. But when pressed, we learned that he loves math and soccer and hopes to be a professional goalie someday.